5 Special Holidays

Caitlin McLaren - 4B Chemical
Posted on: February 18, 2017

Since this is Reading Week, we have a holiday! Yay! It isn’t a very traditional holiday, but all holidays are fun. Plus, that’s maybe for the best. Traditional holidays can get weird sometimes. For example, one city in Ireland has the “Puck Fair,” where they honour a random goat for three days and drink till three in the morning (nothing stereotypical there). In Turkmenistan, they have a national holiday to celebrate melons, because they used to have a dictator who liked them and was prone to wacky dictator whims. When he died, the people decided that while bans on lip-synching and TV makeup were dumb, the the melon festival was actually pretty fun, and they kept it. In Eastern Europe, there are multiple festivals in different countries where people dress in strange costumes and make loud noises, in order to scare the Ottoman Turks (history suggests that it wasn’t very effective).  And, of course, pretty much all festivals anywhere involve setting something on fire.

While that is all very fun, people sometimes take things too far, or in weird directions. Here are five holiday traditions that might not fly well over here.

In Catalonia, Christmas is all about pooping

Well, not all about. That isn’t quite fair. But there is a great deal more poop than one might expect. For one thing, most Christmas traditions now involve a nativity scene (i.e. a set-up of dolls representing Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and various other figures that are part of the Christmas story), the Catalan version also includes a figure of a guy pooping. He is called “El Caganer”, which means “The Crapper”, and is not at all subtle about it. While traditionally he would be dressed as a peasant, it is now common to have a caricature of a famous person or a politician.

That isn’t it, though; another Christmas tradition is the Tió de Nadal, or “Christmas Log”, which is indeed a double meaning. It is a hollow log that is covered with a blanket and often painted with a face. On Christmas, children will hit the log with sticks until it drops treats, like with a pinata. Except, with pinatas you do not call them the “poo log”, order them to poo, and threaten to hit them harder if they do not poo sufficiently.

For obvious reasons, kids love this stuff.

Molten metal fireworks

The Chinese invented gunpowder and were the first people to have fireworks, but that still isn’t the only way to make fireworks. In one village called Nuanquan, people do it… differently. That is to say, they melt a bucket of metal to insane temperatures and throw it in the air with ladles and dash it against cold stone walls. This does create a display of lights, which is called “Beating down the tree flowers”. It is exactly as dangerous as it sounds and would probably be banned in most countries, but this is China we’re talking about. Chinese kids have to wade through molten lead up a cliff both ways to get to school. Now eat your vegetables.

Creepy horse heads

For the past few hundred years in Wales, people have celebrated Christmas and New Years with the Mari Lwyd tradition. That is easier done than said – all you have to do is mount a horse skull on a long stick, give it some creepy glass eyes if you are so inclined, wrap yourself and the stick in a long white sheet, and run around scaring people. Of course, you do this in groups and go door-to-door demanding food and alcohol. If the people in the house make an excuse to not let a bunch of drunk guys and a creepy undead horse in, the party keeps singing until they are allowed in anyway.

Japan’s Naked Festival

This festival is pretty much what it sounds like. In Okayama, Japan, thousands of men take part in the Hadaka Matsuri, in which being naked except for a loincloth is mandatory. Some variations involve wrestling and goofing off in the mud, but the main festival is basically a massive rugby match. The men all gather near Saidai-ji Temple, where a priest throws a pair of sticks into the crowd of naked men all squished together. A huge brawl follows, and the winner is the man who can successfully get the sticks, run through the door of the temple, and stick the sticks in a bowl of rice. Now, I’m not a Freudian, but…

It wouldn’t be Japan if they weren’t extremely organized about the whole thing, and so participants write their name, blood type, and emergency contact on a piece of paper beforehand and keep it in their loincloth in case anything goes wrong. All very sensible, although awkward for the EMTs.

 Lupercalia, the wolf festival, not

If we were Ancient Romans, we would have celebrated the Lupercalia last week. It’s name was taken from the word for “wolf”, but it actually had nothing to do with them. Instead, you would start by sacrificing a goat and a dog, which is frowned upon today but par for the course in old-timey religions. The organizing priests would then pick a couple upper-class young men, who would have blood briefly smeared on them while they laughed. The men would then run around naked except for goatskin thongs – not the underwear, just strips of fresh goatskin around their waste. They would often be joined by other aristocratic men, and would run around the city naked and whacking random people with more leather thongs. Women would seek them out to get whipped, because it was thought to be good for fertility. Or maybe it was just a Fifty Shades situation. Maybe we’ll be seeing a revival.

Obviously, when Rome became Christian the church frowned on that sort of thing and Pope Gelasius wanted to ban it. The Senate objected, claiming that it was necessary for the safety of the city, but the Pope didn’t buy that at all. What a spoilsport.

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